Dark Tourism to Covid Sites?

Monday, 20 September 2021

‘How Long Before Covid Tours Become Part of the Dark Tourism Trend?’ asked the travel newsletter Skift. Too soon was the article’s conclusion, you can’t visit disaster sites (which is what Dark Tourism is all about) when the disaster is ongoing. One day in the future, however, it’s inevitable that people will make the trek to Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province to check out the animal market where our worldwide pandemic disaster kicked off.

▲ on the highway between Yichang and Jingdezhen, skirting by Wuhan

I’ve never been to Wuhan although in 2017, on my 102 day drive in an elderly MGB sports car from Bangkok to London, we passed close by Wuhan on Day 28. It was one of the longest day’s drive – 730km – of the whole trip so although I posted about Yichang the day before my Wuhan near miss and about Jingdezhen the day after there’s nothing about Wuhan in my trip diary.

Of course I have had lots of Dark Travel experiences over the years. I posted a blog about Dark Tourism back in 2007 and in 2016 I made a day trip to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, quite possibly the best known Dark Tourism location, from Kiev in Ukraine. Plus, of course, I wrote a whole book about Dark Lands, click here for my reading list on those dark countries – Colombia, Congo DRC, Haiti, Israel-Palestine, Nauru, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe.

▲ When we do get around to Covid-19 Dark Travel there is already one site, apart from Wuhan of course, which will undoubtedly feature on the itinerary, London’s National Covid Memorial Wall.

◄ Stretching for a third of a mile along the Albert Embankment, in front of St Thomas’ Hospital and facing across the Thames River to the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster, the wall features 150,000 pink hearts, commemorating the UK’s pandemic victims. The USA is the clear leader of course, followed by Brazil and India, but the UK comes in at Number 8 in that unhappy competition to add up the greatest number of Covid-19 deaths. The Guardian has an excellent story on the creation of the wall and the key role played by Led by Donkeys, that anti-Brexit organisation dedicated to illustrating the historic untruthfulness of the Brexit campaign.

So where else will feature in the Dark Covid story? A cruise ship somewhere? The odd quarantine hotel which did their bit to spread the infection? A whole host of cartoons, videos and Covid-19 memes? A vaccine development lab, we need some bright spots in this sorry story?